Christopher Adams

The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Weetabix rebels back cereal offender

Bob Wren says he has received 'tonnes of support' for refusing to pull Weetabix from his shelves. Photo / APN
Bob Wren says he has received 'tonnes of support' for refusing to pull Weetabix from his shelves. Photo / APN

English Bob's Emporium sold out of Weetabix yesterday after a surge in demand for the British cereal brand, driven in part by consumers "rebelling" against Sanitarium, its owner says.

Food giant Sanitarium has demanded the Nelson store stop stocking the product, saying it is breaching trademarks held by the company, which manufactures Weet-Bix in New Zealand.

But English Bob's owner Bob Wren remains defiant, and the dispute has received nationwide media coverage.

His store caters mainly to British expatriates, but Mr Wren said even Kiwis had been coming into his store to buy Weetabix this week.

"People are rebelling," he said. "What it boils down to is that people don't like these big corporates telling everybody what they can and can't sell ... [corporates] are starting to rule the bloody world, if they don't rule it already."

Mr Wren would not say exactly how much Weetabix he had sold this week.

In a letter sent last week, Sanitarium told Mr Wren that unless he stopped selling the product and handed over his stocks of the cereal by yesterday he could face court action.

But late yesterday afternoon he said he had not heard anything further from Sanitarium.

"I think what they're going to do is just leave it. They don't want more bad press, do they?"

Mr Wren said he was planning to get more stock of the cereal.

"If people want it, I'm willing to supply it."

Mr Wren has also applied to register the Weetabix brand name with the New Zealand Intellectual Property Office in the hope that it will allow him to keep selling the British cereal at his store.

He said he had received "tonnes of support" for his fight against the cereal giant.

"People have been calling ... [and telling me to] keep up the good fight."

Sanitarium could not be reached for comment last night, but general manager Pierre van Heerden said this week that the company liked to "resolve these matters amicably with the people involved".

He said the company had previously approached big retailers over trademark issues.

"So it is not about big or small, it is about treating all breaches of our trademark in the same way," Mr van Heerden said.

- NZ Herald

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